Journey to Jasper

Find tranquility in the “Jewel of the Canadian Rockies” as you embrace the glory of nature and release all your cares.

JASPER, A REMOTE TREASURE TUCKED AWAY IN the Canadian Rockies, is a long way from Florida. To get to this destination, there will be plane transfers and driving, but it will be well worth it. For good reason, it is nicknamed “The Jewel in the Canadian Rockies.” Located in Canada’s western Alberta province, Jasper, a mountain town with a population under 5,000, is nestled inside Jasper National Park, the largest of all the Canadian Rockies National Parks. There is easily more wildlife than people here, and that’s the way Jasperites like it. It is, after all, a place that feels gleeful to not have been disrupted by the maddening pace of mod- ern life, a spot where snow-capped mountains and pristine glacier-fed lakes, forests and rivers easily eliminate the inces- sant need to check emails or engage in the many menial tasks that normally consume our day. When cell phones are used in Jasper, it is to capture the turquoise-colored lakes, dramatic scenery, and stately wildlife that abounds, all a welcome change to the tra c, mugginess, and strip malls of South Florida’s day-to-day. Beyond its awe-inspiring beauty, the burgeoning food scene in downtown paired with luxury accommodations adds to the bene ts of choosing Jasper as a bucket list destination.

In 2011, Jasper was declared a Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, making it just one of a handful of parks recognized for their special commitment to protect and preserve the night sky and reduce or eliminate light pollution in all forms. It is the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world (the first is also in Canada, but not nearly as accessible). There are approximately 100 billion stars in our home galaxy, the Milky Way, and on any clear night in Jasper it feels like there are way more than that. Jasper celebrates the heavens with the Dark Sky Festival, held annually in October. It has become, not only a pilgrimage for astronomy a cionados, but also an exploratory haven for nature lovers and foodies, drawing astronomy celebrities like the Kelly brothers, famed twin astronauts, who were the keynote speakers for 2018. Evening events of 2018 included the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons under the stargazing at the shores of Lake Annette with volunteers guiding visitors to the best of the night sky, like the Big Dipper’s double star and neighboring galaxy Andromeda. On a lucky night, viewers may even be privy to the elusive Northern Lights, the aurora that serves as nature’s electric night show with neon green, yellow and violet. Surely even more surprises await for the event in 2019.

The largest of all national parks in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper spans 4,247 square miles and o ers almost 750 miles of hiking trails. Canadians are big outdoors people and it shows – Jasper o ers every thinkable outdoor activity from biking, climbing, camping, shing or hiking in summer to ski- ing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and dog sledding in winter. It is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and joins Ban National Park to the south via the Ice elds Parkway, consid- ered one of the most scenic drives in the world for the chain of massive ice elds straddling the Continental Divide. Jasper boasts numerous worthy destinations: Maligne Lake, the second-largest glacial-fed lake in the world (after Lake Baikal in Siberia) and Mount Columbia, Alberta’s tallest mountain at 12,293 feet. There’s also the Glacier Skywalk, a cli -edge walkway where a glass oor is all that separates you from a 918 feet drop and the Columbia Ice eld Glacier Adventure, where specially designed vehicles ride to the surface of the Athabasca Glacier (only available until Canada’s Thanksgiv- ing, falling on the second Monday in October).

Foodies rejoice, Jasper does not disappoint. The number of restaurants in such a compact area is impressive, so taking a guided tour with Jasper Food Tours is a great way to experi- ence the options. The itinerary changes regularly and features local favorites like Jasper Brewing Company, which, as the name suggests, serves up signature beers such as Jasper the Bear Ale, named after the town’s mascot and brewed on-site using mountain water sourced from the Canadian Rockies. Beer pairs exquisitely with their upscale mountain food with dishes like Rustic Elk Meatloaf served with tomato-glazed bacon, mashed potato, gaufrettes, and mushroom gravy. Other stops include The Raven Bistro, a modern bistro with Mediterranean fusion cuisine and a thoughtful wine selection. Start o with the Moroccan Baked Brie, double cream brie cheese baked with rhubarb date chutney, topped with maple candied pecans and served with toasted rosemary focaccia, then try Feta-Stu ed Falafels accompanied by pickled purple cabbage, tomato-cucumber salad, dukkah (an aromatic-Egyp- tian spice) hummus, and za’atar-spiced corn chips. Vegetarians will welcome the Smokey Portuguese Black Bean Stew made with smoked tofu, black beans, roasted sweet potato and pep- pers and served with coconut rice and topped with steamed edamame, cashew cream and spicy piri-piri sauce.

Coco’s Café, minute in size but packed with avor, special- izes in vegetarian fare. The Coco’s Breakfast Wrap (eggs and veggies wrapped in curry tortilla) has a faithful following as does the Grown Up Grilled Cheese (cheddar cheese, caramel- ized onion chutney, and Granny Smith apples).

Every mountain town needs a pizza hub and Jasper exceeds with Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria. Using the same ‘00’ Caputo our pizzaioli use in Italy, these are hand-stretched and tossed to create a soft and crispy thin crust. Pies are baked for 90 seconds at 900 degrees oF in a traditional, re-roasting Italian pizza oven. You’ll nd yourself ordering several, like the Cavo- letti (oven-roasted Brussels sprouts, prosciutto crisps, gorgon- zola, dates, walnuts, honey) and the Prawn Pesto ( or-di-latte

mozzarella, seasoned ricotta, garlic citrus prawns, roasted garlic, red onions, sun-dried tomatoes, arugula, and pistachio pesto) but that’s okay—the relaxed and friendly ambiance will make you want to hang out a while and enjoy.

As mentioned, there are numerous hiking and walking trails throughout the expansive park, but for those wanting to take in the sights without breaking a sweat there are several fun options to choose from. The Sundog Wildlife Discovery Tour o ers luxury mid-sized buses led by charismatic guides versed in the history, geology, and ecology of the area. Guests take a three-hour ride, camera in hand, ready to snap images of elk, caribou, wolves, moose, and, if lucky, the more elusive black and grizzly bears. The Jasper SkyTram, a seven-minute ride up Whistler’s Mountain (with an elevation of 7,496 feet) provides an informative tour up the longest and highest aerial tramway in Canada. Once atop, take in the view of all the Canadian Rockies, surrounded by six mountain ranges with the town of Jasper nestled far below alongside the winding Athabasca River. For those wanting to tap into their inner James Dean, Jasper Motorcycle Sidecar Tours o ers a eet of shiny Harley Davidson bikes (with sidecars attached) driven by professional motorcycle drivers. Guests are out tted with leather pants and can opt to ride in the comfortable sidecar or on the back of the bike. There’s something invigorating about feeling the chill on your face while zigzagging through snow- capped mountains and emerald lakes.

End your days of adventure and sightseeing at The Fair- mont Jasper Park Lodge, a resort built in 1922 in the tradition of the Great Canadian Lodge, boasting a rich history of famous visitors including Bing Crosby, Marilyn Monroe, and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. The 700-acre property wraps around the shores of serene Lac Beauvert, lined by a peaceful trail open to those wanting to take a quiet stroll or invigorating jog. Bright yellow Adirondack chairs mark the beginning of the trail, o ering a spot to relax and contemplate the unbelievable surrounding beauty.

The hotel is made up of charming cedar wood chalets that are all connected by picturesque paths, immersing guests in nature while simultaneously pampering them with luxurious amenities. The wildlife seems to enjoy it as well: it is not un- usual to stumble upon grazing elks on the way to breakfast at the main lodge. The resort also boasts one of Canada’s nest golf courses.

Jasper will leave you enchanted and longing to return to explore more. A respite from our over-scheduled days, it is
a reminder of how easily and able we are to slip away from our packed agendas, look up to the glorious sky, enjoy a good meal, and wake up for more of the same.

 

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